Sunday, March 30, 2014

Frank Underwood Letting Us in on a Little Secret

The uses of narrative structure can really emphasis specific events that conspire in a television show. In many shows such as Modern Family you have the single-camera shot (Chandler), where there are set scenes that are dedicated to focusing on how a character feels or what a character thinks about a certain situation. Typically they are asked a question about a topic or scene which will be set to follow that scene. Something different that a few televisions do is the narrative of a character through their personal thoughts. In the television show House of Cards they give a perfect example of how well this narrative helps to make sense of a program, portray what values and ideologies characters possess, and can depict who are the heroes and who are the villains.
The use of narrative structure that is used in House of Cards gives a deeper and more personal look into the characters mindset at that very moment. In majority of other television shows characters are talking to the camera and asked a certain question to answer and give feedback on their thoughts. In House of Cards the scene freezes as Frances narrates his personal thoughts running through his head. This gives us as the audience an opportunity to get the raw feeling that that character is going through at that moment. This helps to make sense of the program in a way to personally connect the character with the audience. Through the show you pick up on clues that France’s is plotting a scheme. When the show arrives closer to the end of his plan where everything is coming together and he predicts the decisions being made are in his favor, France’s steps away from the show’s reality and counts down “In three…two…one.” (Netflix). This is probably one of my favorite parts in the show because it’s almost exactly how other people think and in most typical shows you don’t know what that character is thinking. Again by reaching into his mind by expressing his current thoughts it almost makes his character a little more relatable and human. Not only is it intriguing to be able to reach into the mind of a character at that precise moment, it’s even more interesting that Frances is the only character that this is done with. Through this it sets the tone for how to shape the audiences ideologies of the show through this character.
            By using this form of narrating you are able to see what ideologies Frances embodies. When there are these moments that he speaks his mind he gives insight on his secrets. You get to hear what his honest opinion is of the president, of his wife of his staff and his little love fling. The way he shares is ideologies makes you feel like he is talking to you. In fact, Kevin Spacey told reporters that when he is playing these roles he actually imagines talking to his best friend. (Ghahremani) It actually is an interesting way of thinking about it. To me when I talk to my friends I like to give them my honest opinions and the way Spacey talks to the screen kind of feels like how I would talk to my friends, it’s almost like he’s letting us in on a little secret.
            The way that heroes and villains are created is through the eyes of Frances. When we get a glimpse into his thoughts he molds certain characters into villains and heroes. For example, when France was first recruiting Jackie into the house his comments about her had been supportive, a little suspicious but still supportive. When France caught wind that Jackie had been going against his grain he was furious and his following comments about her changed her into a negative character in his eyes.
            I think the way that this narration is used for this television show really brings a power to these scenes. I actually enjoy the way that you are kind of let in on a secret versus watching someone answer questions on their thoughts. House of Cards narration gives more of an organic feel to Kevin Spacey’s thoughts, it doesn’t feel so scripted. Of course this would not work for all television shows but for this show I think it is a strong suit.

Chandler, Daniel. "The 'Grammar' of Television and Film." The Grammar of TV and
Film. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2014.
 Ghahremani, Tanya. "Bustle." Bustle. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2014. "Netflix." Watch House of Cards Online. N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Mar. 2014.


  1. Brilliantly written, I believe this series offers the audience a unique ability to break down the fourth 'wall', and really become enamored with Frank Underwood. Sexuality is constantly being questioned, and portrayed fluidly within the show, and I feel as though that's an important way to challenge the upheld heteronormative standard we see in society. I absolutely agree that having the narrative script in the show could have been executed poorly, however, House of Cards sets a new standard within this genre of narration, as it adds greatly to the power of the show. Well said Karrin.

  2. I have never seen the shoe before, but I like when television shows and films break the fourth wall and let you into the minds of the characters. I agree that not all shows could pull something like that off, but i would like to see more shows do it, because it allows you to fully understand what is going on in the characters head, and it gets you more intrigued for it. Great post, and i will definitely start watching this show now.

  3. I've only watched the first season so far, but I have already seen many scenes where Frank is talking directly to the viewers. I also really enjoy it because it makes me feel like I'm getting the inside scoop of what's going on in Frank's head. His thoughts about certain people or plans of his definitely help to shape my opinions of them. It would be interesting to see other TV shows incorporating this type of narrating into their programs, however I don't believe it could work in all situations. House of Cards does a great job being able to pull it off.

  4. Very well written! couldn't have said it better myself! Frank underwood has got to be my second favorite character ever created (right behind Bill the Butcher from gangs of new york). I never really acknowledged "the fourth wall" before this show. I mean i realized the format in programs like the office and parks and rec., but House of Cards really made me appreciate it. I have to give a big thumbs up to netflix for their promotion of "binge watching". I wish every show could release an entire season at once.. I would normally offer some sort of suggestion or criticism, but as i stated previously, i couldn't have put it better myself. I look forward to reading your next post. Keep it up!

  5. First off this blog was written very well and secondly I absolutely enjoy House of Cards, especially the idea of breaking the 4th wall. Its interesting to think that by breaking the 4th wall changes the dynamic of the show completely. No longer do we feel like a 3rd party in the show but instead a integral part. I think this why House of Cards stands out from the rest in that aspect. Something that I thought would be interesting to incorporate would be comparing the British version to this one, not sure if they use the 4th but it might be interesting if they did.

  6. This was very well written and obvious that you watch the show carefully. I too watch the show and agreed with much you had to say. It is never easy to break the "fourth wall" and many people find it to be sloppy writing, however, I think that House of Cards did a great job doing it without giving too much away. All the do is let you in on little tidbits of the plot, just enough that it keeps you guessing what will happen next. Netflix made all the right moves in obtaining this show. Frank Underwood was a big part of that, he understands that people want to binge watch shoes and that is exactly what has happened. Great Read, Great work.


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